The Contraption of Elsewhen

Chapter 1: The Finder

It was the first Sunday of summer. Ellen Biscuit lay in the sunshine on the porch in last year’s Easter dress. Feet-end in, head-end out, she watched in horrified fascination as the spider in the web between the ceiling and post made quick work of an unfortunate fly. Ellen detested spiders. She could only look when they were far enough away that they couldn’t suddenly become tangled in her hair or slip down her shirt.
+++As the spider retreated into the shadows to wait for another stray meal, Ellen unconsciously tugged at a tight sleeve, shifted, and relaxed. You could hear the quick footsteps creaking through the old house as her parents hurried about, getting ready for church. Caleb was probably in the bathroom reading an old copy of MAD Magazine.
+++“Ellen, do you have any idea where my black earrings are?” her mom, Cecilia, called out from the other side of the house.
+++Ellen closed her eyes for a moment then yelled back, “They’re in the bathroom behind the candle.” Stretching her arms behind her head, she would have closed her eyes were it not for needing to keep an eyeball on the spider.
+++A shadow crossed her sunlight.
+++“Hello Ellen,” said an old woman.
+++Ellen sat up, spun around and squinted. Tucked behind the wild mash of patterns, colors and fringe—all of which shared a purple hue—was a tiny woman with a prune of a face. The dress-poncho-shawl looked pieced together from gypsy tablecloths, and the tattered scarf and hat plucked from the recesses of an attic. The woman was short and so bent that the handle of her cane was near her shoulders. To complete the startling image that this woman projected, behind her goggle-sized, purple-framed glasses were sparks of something. Joy, maybe. Or insanity.